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Nuclear medicine firm Syncor to offer teleradiology servicesRadiopharmacy firm branches out with NukeNet A surprising new entrant is planning to join the market for nuclear medicine teleradiology services. Radiopharmacy firm Syncor
Radiopharmacy firm branches out with NukeNet
A surprising new entrant is planning to join the market for nuclear medicine teleradiology services. Radiopharmacy firm Syncor International is partnering with a group of nuclear medicine physicians in Phoenix to develop NukeNet, a teleradiology overread service for nuclear medicine studies.
Syncor hopes to be able to offer primary and secondary reads to international customers in the next several months. It plans to roll the service out in the U.S. some time in 1999, according to Sara Jane Davis, director of international business development at the Woodland Hills, CA, company. Syncor discussed NukeNet in its booth at the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in Toronto in June.
NukeNet represents a unique diversification opportunity for Syncor. The company's core business is providing radiopharmaceuticals to nuclear medicine departments, and Syncor has 119 radiopharmacies in the U.S. and 13 internationally. Although supplying radiopharmaceuticals is a far different business than teleradiology services, Syncor believes that its business model gives it some advantages in building its new service.
For one thing, Syncor already has business relationships with many nuclear medicine departments as part of its radiopharmaceutical business. NukeNet can be offered to these customers simply as an extension to this relationship. The company's extensive network of radiopharmacies will also act as sales and support sites for NukeNet, giving Syncor a market presence that few dedicated teleradiology services companies could match.
In addition, nuclear medicine is an ideal market for an offering like NukeNet, according to Syncor. The subspecialty is facing a shortage of talent as many older nuclear medicine physicians retire, while fewer younger radiologists are entering the field. A Society of Nuclear Medicine study conducted several years ago indicated that some 60% of nuclear medicine studies are read by general radiologists, Davis said. Although radiologists sometimes view teleradiology services companies as potential competitors, Syncor's informal surveys of physicians have discovered that most would welcome the additional expertise to be available through NukeNet.
"Most of the doctors welcome the concept because they see it as a supplement to what they offer," Davis said. "You might have a radiologist who is reading four or five modalities, and he'd like to have some backup expertise."
To provide overread services to NukeNet customers, Syncor has contracted with Healthcare Technology Group of Phoenix, a group of nuclear medicine physicians formed by Dr. Hirsch Handmaker.
On the technical side, NukeNet will be based on Web technology, which provides its users with a low-cost means of transmitting images to specialists at Handmaker's Healthcare Technology Group. Web servers will be installed either at a Syncor radiopharmacy or at the nuclear medicine department if the facility is a high-volume site, Davis said.
Syncor is in discussions with several Web software developers to supply the technology infrastructure for the project. For the pilot version of NukeNet, Syncor worked with Autocyt Group of Watertown, MA, for its Amicas Web-based image distribution software, while Web Link Medical of Oakville, Ontario, contributed software to convert data from legacy gamma cameras into the DICOM standard. Syncor will probably decide on a software vendor by September.